Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Is There No End to Mass Violence?

In just the past few weeks we have witnessed the mass shooting in Orlando, the suicide bombing at the Istanbul airport, the shooting and machete attack in Bangladesh, and now a bombing in Iraq … a total of more than 250 people dead, and as many injured.  And ISIS is connected either directly or indirectly with all.

But ISIS is certainly not the only fomenter of terrorism.   Nor are only Muslims.  Just as  a reminder, the mass shooting at the African-American church in Charleston, SC in June, 2015 which claimed 9 lives was done by a white-supremacist sympathizer.  And while some of the mass shootings in the U.S. have been tied to an ideology, most were more a function of alienation.

There is, however, a common denominator to all of these acts, and it is hate.  And what is usually the cause of hate?  Fear or feelings of abuse, of being taken advantage of; a deep mistrust.  These feelings can be based on reality or imagined; it makes no difference to their power.  But ultimately, all the feelings that cause hate are based on feelings of insecurity.

I have written before that the cause of all abuse and violence, whether within the home or between groups or nations, is insecurity (see my posts, “The Root of all Abuse and Violence - Insecurity” and “Insecurity as the Cause of Social Conflict and International War”).  Although violence is commonly said to be a fact of human nature, as a Buddhist I know that violence and hatred are not man’s nature.  A Sufi (Muslim), a Kabbalist (Jewish), or a Christian mystic would say the same.

Quite the contrary is true.  The problem is that man’s inherent God-essence, his traits of love and compassion that he is born with and are his birthright, has been overwhelmed by all his experiences, starting virtually at birth, that tell him he is not loved, certainly not unconditionally, and that he needs to be more than he is and have more than he has in order to experience happiness and security; all of which breed insecurity.  This message is so consistent and comes from so many sources … family, friends, peers, society … that man’s knowledge of his true self quickly becomes buried under the layers of this learned experience, this debris of life.

I once asked a monk that if man is born essentially perfect, why do we all suffer?  His answer was, “It’s just the way it is.  It’s like the law of thermodynamics.”

This is not, however, to say that it has to be that way, that it is man’s nature.  It is all a function of action and reaction.  Change the action and you change the reaction.  Remove all the actions that cause insecurity, advance instead those that promote self-esteem and self-love, and you nurture a being and a society in which nothing offends, in which fear and hatred cease to exist and instead there is love and compassion towards all.

While there is no question in my mind and heart that this is true … it is telling that all mystics of all religions and all times have been unanimous in this view of things … we are not starting with a blank slate.  We are starting with a world in which insecurity is the prevalent experience and intolerance or worse, as well as the craving for money and power, are the expressions of that insecurity.

Does that mean that it is hopeless?  That there is nothing to be done to change this intolerable state of affairs … not just the senseless mass violence but all the small acts of violence and abuse that are inflicted on others and well as ourselves?

I don’t think so.  It would take several generations, but I believe that if people were raised differently, as suggested by my book, Raising a Happy Child, we would develop a mass of people who viewed themselves and the world around them differently, and that would in turn eventually impact how politicians view relations within their country and how world leaders view the relations between their countries and the rest of the world.  It is a change in perspective and attitude that would start small and spread throughout mankind.

Will this ever happen?  Unlikely.  Could it, however, happen?  Yes, if encouraged by those forces with moral authority in the world.